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07.03.2006 General News

Corruption thrives because of systemic inefficiencies

By Statesman

The Minister for Public Sector Reform has maintained that corruption within the public sector may be mainly a by-product of the inefficiency within the bureaucracy of government.

“Inefficiency and corruption are directly linked,” says Paa Kwesi Nduom. “Sometimes I wonder why people keep yelling about that type of corruption and do nothing about it. Take a typical example – the DVLA.

Corruption exists there not because the people there are evil or bad. But, for example, there was only one office for Accra. The sheer volume of work alone means you cannot serve the public with efficiency. The situation is not that different in other public sector areas where they rely on manual processes. When you have an inefficient system then people who want something done will find a way to by-pass the red tape and get it done.”

The most fundamental incentive for this type of corruption appears to be a safe passage through the harsh and hostile labyrinth of inefficient public bureaucracy.

The Minister takes an optimistic view of the solution, “That reason which allows the public to corrupt officials can be eliminated if you have an efficient modernised system for DVLA, for example.”

He gives another example, which several contractors may be familiar with. “Take finance. A private sector operator has delivered the services or goods he was contracted by Government to do. But he has to go through 14 offices for signatures. You lose days because the signatories are not available to process your money.”

So you short circuit the system by paying bribes. “You pay somebody to get you your cheque,” Dr Nduom says.

The solution as he sees it is “to modernise, make efficient, transparent and predictable. Some processes are simply not clear. The administrative inefficiencies have led to, what I will call, administrative corruption. It's not political. It's rather caused by the breakdown of bureaucracy. That's what we need to overcome.”

Dr Ndoum's observation appears to follow the quite unpopular line of thought which maintains that at certain stages of development when systems are not efficiently in place corruption can play a stop-gap positive role. American writers like Nathaniel Leff, Lincoln Steffens and Robert Merton maintain that in a situation of grinding bureaucracy, that set of informal arrangements work as the necessary antidote to a system which simply cannot and does not encourage efficiency.

“Corrupt practices are partly based on the low expectations that the public has of the public sector. If I need a service performed and I expect I'm not going to get the service required, I line my pocket with money. The attitudinal thing on the part of the served and the service provider can be both dealt with by making the system work,” the Minister stresses.

He disclosed that Government is re-starting the old practice of making Chief Directors of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies to sign up to a performance contract.

“In addition we are introducing this month an innovation that will have the metropolitan and district chief executives also sign performance contracts with the Office of the President and the Local Government Ministry. This is to make them all directly accountable.”

He said Government has undertaken a successful exercise in monitoring and evaluation of the state owned enterprises. He cites Goil, GPHA, Civil Aviation and State Housing as some of the success stories. “For the first time some of these SOEs are paying dividends to Government; it shows that the requirement that you pay dividend to your shareholder(s) before paying yourselves bonuses is working.”

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